Posts from June 11, 2005

Whom do you trust? Not us.

Whom do you trust? Not us.

: Confidence in news media — newspaper and TV — has reached an all-time low in Gallup‘s survey of trust in institutions.

Those having a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers dipped from 30% to 28% in one year, the same total for television. The previous low for newspapers was 29% in 1994. Since 2000, confidence in newspapers has declined from 37% to 28%, and TV from 36% to 28%, according to the poll.

However, some other institutions fared far worse this year, suggesting a broad level of distrust, cynicism or malaise.

Confidence in the presidency plunged from 52% to 44%, with Congress and the criminal-justice system also suffering 8% drops. Confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court fell from 46% to 41%. The 22% confidence rating for Congress is its lowest in eight years, and self-identified Republicans have only a slightly more positive view of the institution than do Democrats.

Or it could suggest that they’re all just doing a piss-poor job.

Note also that the new pondscum of public institutions with the lowest trust of all are… drum roll and fart sound-effect at the ready, please… HMOs.

Actually, people want you to lead

Actually, people want you to lead

: When he got the job, I said that Howard Dean could resist himself. He hasn’t gone to anger-management class. Today, he says:

“People want us to fight,” Dean told the national party’s executive committee. “We are here to fight.”

No, Howard, that’s what lost you the primaries.

Both sides are role-playing into each others’ hands. Dean is acting like the rabid underdog and the Republicans are acting like cornered kitties and both are ridiculous. See John Cole, Republican, on the Republican act:

And while we are at it, can we conservatives please stop this laughable cult of victimology? We have the Presidency (for the second time in a row and the fifth time in the last seven elections). We control the Senate by a ten seat margin. We control the House by a larger margin. We have dismissed or dismantled virtually every institutional check in order to limit opposition debate and increase institutional control, regardless how short-sighted that might be. We are ramming through just about every judge we wanted, and are about to reload the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia at the helm.

We control dozens of governors offices and an equal number of state legislatures. We have hundreds of think tanks, hundreds of talk show hosts, hundreds of conservative columnists, millions of bloggers. We have dozens of partisan magazines and pundits, legions of 527’s and grass-roots organizations, and dozens of think-tanks. We have, ostensibly, our own damned cable news channel and so many right leaning editorial boards of newspapers I can’t even begin to count them. Memes that start in obscure blogs find their way onto the front page of allegedly liberal newspapers in the matter of two days.

We may be a lot of things, but persecuted victims we are not. To assert otherwise is to engage in a self-defeating flight of fancy that should be met with nothing short of outright ridicule.

What’s wrong with news

What’s wrong with news

: This one headline from the AP says it all:

2,200 Journalists Await Jackson Verdict

It’s wrong not because the story is tacky but because the news is a commodity:

There will be one bit of news that comes out of the end of this trial: Guilty or not guilty. It takes one person to report that and today that word can spread around the world in no time and every news site and every TV and radio station and every blog can know it without sending 2,199 journalists to sit there and wait and repeat the exact same news.

Oh, you want to see how ridiculous Jackson looks under his umbrella as he gloats or mopes? Fine, give that one person a camera and hook it up to the internet. We’ll all see it. We’ll all be able to comment on it just like the chippies before the camera.

Guilty or not guilty.

You certainly don’t need legal analysts to explain that verdict to you. But you’ll have them.

Why are those 2,200 journalists there? Ego, pure institutional ego. The Daily Blatt thinks its readers give two hoots that its own reporter is there instead of running the AP’s story. MSCNNFOX news worry that without their own reporter and camera there, you’ll watch the other guy. But which one you watch is really just a multiple choice question in which all the answers are wrong: You’ll hear no newer, better, extra news on this story on one channel or another.

Those 2,199 extra journalists could be off reporting real stories we don’t all already know about. Or they could be fired, saving their employers money and saving us their moaning about the state of the news business today.

: finds quotes from CNN head Jon Klein regretting the volume of Jackson coverage (can’t get to the original story becausae of a registration block):

ìIf I had one decision to take back, it would be the extent of our coverage,î says CNN/U.S. chief Jon Klein, six months on the job. ìLooking back, we should have just covered the beginning and the end.î …

ìWe committed to a reporter and crew there every single day,î Klein says. ìI have not found it to be a very satisfying meal. CNN ought to do stories nobody else has. We did what everybody else did. It was the safe thing to do.î

In terms of news value, the case ìwasnít even close to being the biggest priority,î Klein says. In the future, ìwe will be a lot more careful about committing to ongoing coverage.î

A new newsroom

A new newsroom

: I’m going to link again to my post about reinventing the newsroom because I was hoping for more comments like this one from Business Week’s Steve Baker, riffing after a comment by Blogads’ Henry Copeland:

Funny that Henry should mention “only the paranoid survive.” Because I think that the key to success in whatever we end up calling this new age is overcoming fear. Paranoids build walls. They keep secrets. They stitch together back-channel alliances. All of these maneuvers are designed to defend them. But they all limit connections with the rest of the world. I think that people who figure out how to share secrets, consort with the enemy, and camp out on foreign soil stand to win these days. I think the blog world is a laboratory for this.

And, no, he’s not saying bloggers are the enemy. He is one.

Mark Tapscott says on his blog:

One of the biggest challenges for MSMers is getting out of the Old Media way of thinking that is anchored around the concepts of the single hard-copy or broadcast being the basic news product and the daily deadline cycle required to produce that product. Thinking in those terms is a prescription for death these days, but that fact doesn’t make it any less difficult for folks who have operated in traditional newsrooms throughout their careers to start thinking in completely new ways.

: Dwight Silverman, tech blogger on the Houston Chronicle, quotes part of my post and says:

Yeah. I’d love to work in a newsroom that operated like that. Bring it on.

Well, Dwight, it may not be as far off as you think, considering that the good conversation I had this week on this topic was with a bunch of editors, including yours.

: Laurence Simon remixes my post quite nicely and bluntly:

On 1. Input, stop chewing and vomiting back AP and Reuters. Report on original and local material in your backyard. I see an attack on the herd mentality of media, sending crews and reporters to stories already well-covered by partners and other outlets. Also, an attack on “vanity crews” just so you can say you sent a crew there and are reporting live from the scene far far away….

3. Jarvis’ Mantra – Newspapers aren’t the source. They are the amplifier and mixer for many sources. “Houston’s Leading Information Source” isn’t right in that regard… it’s not a source but a conduit. Does it reproduce the signal faithfully? Is it mixed without much error or loss?…

Blogging as Metaphor – massive IT investment and reworking of the newsroom workflow. Everything goes into a MASSIVE DATABASE with enough tags to make it easy to store, find, crosslink, reference, edit, share, and publish. As the lifecycle of a story progresses, the public has the ability to watch it form, like a man tossing pizza dough in the air….

4. Train the reader – The reader is no logner a reader, but a participant…

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Laurence, though I tried.

: Mark Tosczak says:

To me, as a working journalist, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the old skill sets most reporters and editors were trained with are simply inadequate. Now we have to not only be writers, but also broadcasters, designers, programmers, moderators. We have to be multimedia savvy. Used to be you could have a good career (at least in newspapers) with basically just writing, interviewing and editing skills. Now we all need to know something about design, about photography, about sound recording, about video, about speaking and appearing on camera. More skills, broader skills. It’s a brave new world, and exciting.

Note he says “exciting,” not “frightening.” See Baker, above.

: And thanks, Craig, for the link.

At the temple

At the temple

: Jay Rosen, my rabbi, continues his lessons about the religion of the press with a fine parable about a CNN reporter who thinks you can’t wear a flag and be a reporter at once and also about a prodigal son of journalism who chose not to worship at the big, one-size-fits-all temple but instead to go to another on the right edge of town. Go read his sermon first and then come back for coffee hour….

The problem in the religion of big journalism is that you’re not supposed to have opinions. You’re not supposed to be American. You’re not supposed to be human. You’re a reporter.

And that, of course, is just so much hubristic hogwash.

I found myself in a discussion about blogs and newspapers recently — I feel as if I never leave that discussion — one of them asked the inevitable question about reporters blogging: Should they have opinions? I said I’d give them my blogboy answer: Of course.

One of the editors gave the example of an ongoing smoking ban story. Should the reporter express an opinion for or against in her blog? It took me a minute before I came up with the right answer: It’s not so much about an opinion on that story as it is about transparency. So, like a good New Yorker, I answered the question with a question: If the reporter were a smoker, wouldn’t that be relevant? Doesn’t the audience deserve to know that? If the audience caught the reporter grabbing a smoke, wouldn’t they properly see it as a scandal? If the reporter doesn’t reveal that, isn’t that a lie of omission, a hidden agenda? So if the reporter has an attitude about that smoking ban, might that be relevant, too?

The problem with this objectivity doctrine is that reporters and editors didn’t just make themselves adherants of a religion, they made themselves monks, even gods: higher beings who do not suffer from the human foibles of opinions and viewpoints and who think having open conversations with those who do is below them.

But the truth is that they are Americans covering an American war and smokers covering a smoking ban and Catholics covering church sex scandals and Jews covering Israel and citizens covering politics. They are not above or apart from us. They are us.

: See also Ernest Miller.